There is a rich amount of history behind the Baltimore City uprising, which was mainly influenced by deaths of African American individuals such as, but not limited to, Michael Brown. The controversy and problems of police brutality have increased greatly in recent memory, and the uprising was a result of not only the death of Freddie Grey in Baltimore City, but from outrage over the deaths of many African Americans in police custody across the entire nation. Many African Americans wanted their voices and lives to be recognized, and in the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “a riot is the language of the unheard.”
Freddie Grey was arrested on April 12, 2015 on W. North Ave. at 8:39 A.M. for carrying an illegal switchblade. During this time, the police used unnecessary force by tasering Grey so severely that he was unable to move his legs. The officers then made a few major mistakes when they failed to handcuff the victim, threw him in the back of the police bus, and did not buckle him in. Next, the police drove Grey around Baltimore recklessly, which caused the victim to be thrown around the bus violently. The police even put another prisoner in the van, stopped in an undisclosed area, and put chains on Grey’s legs (still no seat belt). Finally, the officers made it back to the station at 9:26 A.M. when BPD called the medic. Sadly, Grey died on April 19, 2015 due to spinal injuries from the transport, which caused an uprising in Baltimore City. The uprising led to a citywide curfew of 10 P.M. in which many singled out individuals, such as Joseph Kent, were arrested for nonviolent protest.
Joseph Kent was a local civil rights leader who was very active in the Morgan State University community, and was employed as an intern through the school’s Entrepreneurial Development and Assistance Center. Furthermore, Kent was well known in the community for his participation in protests for Michael Brown. After Brown’s tragic death in Ferguson, Missouri, Kent led a peaceful protest from Morgan State’s campus to Baltimore City Hall. During this demonstration Kent stated, “the whole city was on my back and I was just carrying the whole city”. During the Baltimore uprising of 2015, Kent was peacefully protesting past the 10 P.M. curfew on the streets of Baltimore when he was arrested on live TV, which was captured by a CNN camera crew. He was protesting for non-violence and was actually seen trying to clear the streets of rioters. Kent was moving back and forth in front of riot police, when a U.S Military Humvee drove up from the other end of the street and began to head towards Kent. A few seconds later, riot police broke formation and pinned Kent against the vehicle, throwing him in the back seat and then proceeding to drive off. This arrest led to outrage on twitter, with many users tweeting with the hashtag #JosephKent and demanding to know what happened to him off camera. Thankfully, Kent was released from jail a few days later. Shortly after this, Kent’s lawyer told CNN “He [Kent] wanted me to tell people most that he doesn’t want violence in his name”.
In the following days, Baltimore made headlines in almost every major news network across the world. Some notable publications include the Washington Post, New York Times and of course the Baltimore Sun. It was reported that 486 people were arrested during the Baltimore uprising, which is a staggering amount of people, and many of these people taken into custody were unlawfully arrested. According to the Washington Post, “Trying to sort out those who looted and threw bottles and rocks at officers from people who were simply caught in the chaos is proving to be a challenge for the legal system”.
This was important to us and many others who are from Baltimore as we have seen and been a part of the uprising. Those who lived in Baltimore were affected by the curfews, and saw police brutality occur. Each of us felt connected to Baltimore and were affected by the awful events that occurred in the area, which lead us to choose this topic. Many white people were out past curfew and did not get in trouble. However, peaceful protestors were kidnapped on live TV by the police and were taken into custody for fighting for general peace. As stated above, this event hit close to home for us and we wanted to share our knowledge with others.